ANNAPOLIS -- Damn the General Accounting Office, midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy said yesterday. Things have changed.
"In my plebe year, the deputy brigade commander was a woman," recalled Marvin Reed, a graduating senior from Queens, N.Y. "And every time she tried to make announcements in the chow hall, you could hear the catcalls. Last fall Julianne Gallina was the commander and nobody said anything to her."
"You get more respect now," added a graduating woman from Pittsburgh. "Everybody is more open and honest. It's not a high school atmosphere any more."
A draft copy of a GAO report charges that women and minorities trail white men in almost every area of the academy's scholastic, physical training and military curriculum. It also found that women and minorities were more likely than white men to be cited for honor code infractions and that their punishment was more severe.
Investigators speculated that the higher incidence of violations among women and minorities could be related to the stress they feel because of their smaller numbers and a lingering macho tradition at the academy.
But black and women mids, many of whom asked to not be identified, dismissed the report as outdated.
"That's from four years ago," protested a senior woman from North Carolina. "Everything is different from what it was then. You don't see that stuff happen anymore. People are more aware."
"I've done real well here," said Mr. Reed, who is black and was second regimental commander last year. "If you do something serious, then you're going to get hammered no matter who you are."
The GAO report was requested by House and Senate leaders after reports surfaced of a 1989 incident in which then-Midshipman Gwen Dreyer was dragged from her dormitory room, handcuffed to a urinal and mocked by classmates. Five investigations were sparked by that incident and reports of others.
Similar 1990 reports cited incidents of sexual harassment and took the academy to task for lagging in integrating women into the ranks.
Cmdr. Mike John, an academy spokesman, said the GAO report's findings were based on "surveys that began almost two years ago."
"Since that time, many corrective actions, policy changes and new programs were initiated," he added in a written statement. "The results have already been marked and significant."
"We've got refresher programs on sexual harassment that we have to go to where you discuss what practices are forbidden," said the woman from North Carolina. "If you miss one, they make sure you get to the next one."
"You're gonna hear some things in the halls," conceded Kendra Williams, a sophomore from Anchorage, Alaska. "But this has always been a male institution. And it's not as bad as they think it is."
Two years ago, women complained about being referred to as WUBAs -- a term derived from Working Uniform Blue Alpha, the old name of the day-to-day midshipmen uniform. But in midship-speak, it also represented derogatory references to females: Women Used By All and Women with Unusually Broad A----.
"The girls use that now," said a senior woman from Pensacola, Fla. "The guys are afraid to."